Europe gave us the hot hatchback and so we wanted to return the favor, choosing the Continent for our first comparison of the eagerly awaited Ford Focus RS. We took a car from the media launch in Valencia, Spain, and headed over the border to France, enabling us to use both Michelin’s test track at Salon-de-Provence and some of the region’s more spectacular mountain roads. This is where we find out if this four-wheel-drive superhero can possibly live up to the hype that’s been heaped on its bulging shoulders.
This is also a welcome chance to confirm many of the stereotypes we hold so dear about France and the French, none of which is truer than the national characteristic for double standards. This is the European country that whines loudest about American cultural imperialism, yet every McDonald’s franchise here is packed six deep. And during our visit, it was reported that the former French government minister responsible for fighting tax evasion had just gone on trial for tax evasion. Yet perhaps the greatest proof of Gallic hypocrisy came in the warmth of the welcome we received and the polite interest that the natives, most of whom drive underpowered diesels, expressed in our relatively exotic trio. What has happened to France’s fabled snobbishness?
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